Supersized Summer Issue!!

Originally Published : June 1, 2023

Dear HL Clients and Friends,

We have the very best clients in the hospitality industry, yet too few of you are taking advantage of your popularity. Make all those branding and marketing efforts pay off and play the Consumer Packaged Goods game! CPG is fun and easy and will make you rich like Sir Kensington (140 mil)!

You simply take your already amazing bbq sauce, hummus or yak milk yogurt, test and label it, mass produce it, get it on the grocery store shelves, blow out your branding and advertising, sell truckloads and then cash out for millions when General Mills or Pepsi scoops you up and buys you out. So easy right?

Although I’m being cheeky and, of course, you know nothing in our industry is quite so painless, we think CPG’s are a worthwhile and exciting endeavor and an important piece of the modern hospitality group portfolio.  So, we are in it now and I’m very happy to announce that Teepoo Riaz, former General Counsel to that little e-commerce grocer, Fresh Direct, will join me at HL in leading the CPG charge.

We know many of you have products that you have dreamed about selling and have wondered how this all works so we are going to hold a webinar about how to jump in to the CPG world and you can sign up here.  You will learn the grocery business and all the steps needed to successfully get your product to the public.

Ice cream is always a good CPG bet and now that its summer, let’s talk about how weird of a time it is in our industry.  A tale of two cities really. The wealthy neighborhood spots wilt as their dwellers jet to Mallorca or helicopter to to their Sag summer homes. The bars and restaurants in Tribeca, The Uppah East, Midtown and the chichi Brooklyn neighborhoods  just get crushed as everyone is WFH (Work From Hudson).  While on the other side of the L train tracks, hip Brooklyn neighborhood bars boom and LES restaurants rock as the kids and the middle and working-class folks escape the swelter by sipping Long Island Iced Teas and dollar oysters in our makeshift outdoor cafes.

Whatever the case, we should recognize that NYC has become more of a seasonal city than in the past and we have seen many of our bar and restaurant owners get caught flat-footed when things slow down or get busier than they expected.

For the busy spots, you prob can’t build a rooftop bar or you would have done it by now, so pack them into your sidewalk and backyard while you still can. Put some money into making it pretty but don’t go as crazy as you did at the height of the pandemic as we are waiting on guidance about the Outdoor Dining program. Of course you should book that Montauk pop-up and get some sun and surf in Southold and have a ball but don’t expect to make too much money out there.  It usually doesn’t pan out that way.

And for those who suffer the summer slowdown, preparing to make deep cuts to your staff so you can keep your head above water and not give back all of your winter profits is the way to go. Get ahead of the game and do it now. And then take a vacation and travel and get your mojo back as you plan your next moves for the busy fall season which is really the start of our yearly calendar.

So, I hope you all enjoy your summer and get some fishing and beach time in and get to decompress from the past three years. Rest up and get ready to crush after Labor Day.  You deserve it!




CPG’s and the Grocery Industry
Hosted by Teepoo Riaz & David Helbraun
Tuesday June 20th, 11am-12:30pm

Want to create additional sources of revenue that don’t require à la minute cooking? Or, have you perfected that one item you feel everyone should be buying? Then join us on Tuesday, June 20 at 11am for CPG’s and the Grocery Industry with David Helbraun and Teepoo Riaz, HL Of Counsel and most recently General Counsel for e-commerce grocer FreshDirect. We will be discussing the grocery industry – latest consumer trends and opportunities, funding, where to sell, regulatory considerations, and more – all in relation to consumer packaged goods (CPG’s) and what you need to know to go from concept to sale!


We have made a few changes around here over the past few months as we continue to grow and improve our practice.  We are most excited about Hamutal and Claudia, our kickass HR and litigation pros, taking the reins of the Employment Group.

Claudia has years of hospitality HR experience under her belt and she has been working with many HL clients so she knows what you’re going through and can help you through all of your HR troubles. Claudia is here for your employee handbooks and training and other HR issues.

And then there is Hamutal, our muscle and trusted counsel. She is an experienced litigator who, as many of you know, can mix it up with the best of them.  She is tough, no nonsense, proactive and aggressive.  She is an absolute nightmare for the bottom-of-the-barrel plaintiffs lawyers who prey on our industry. If you get sued or threatened or harassed, Hamutal will help you out.  If you need guidance on an employee emergency, Hamutal will handle it. No mansplaining or waffling or wasting your time with Hamutal.

If you have any employment issues, please contact Hamutal and Claudia:
Hamutal Lieberman,
Claudia Santaly,


DOT Cracking Down on Outdoor Dining by Eric Dawson, Senior Associate Attorney, Litigation Group

A permanent outdoor seating program is on its way, but this progress has the DOT out in full force looking for structures that are not in compliance under the temporary program. It is likely they are trying to clean up any loose ends while the emergency program is still in effect so that they have a smoother transition when it comes time to convert to the permanent program. As a result, technical violations that have been overlooked previously are now being strictly enforced and businesses are being threatened with termination of their authorization.

A lot of businesses have been trying to bide their time before making any changes, understandably holding out to see what the permanent program will look like.  Unfortunately, DOT isn’t acting like they want to give us that chance. BUT, there are still things we can do to try to get you more time even if you have received a Termination Notice.

If you have received a Termination Notice for your outdoor seating, don’t panic! Even after a Termination Notice has been issued, we can contact the DOT and seek an extension of time to address remediations. We can then work with you to gather the evidence needed to show the DOT that your space is compliant and advise you on any necessary changes.

If you have not received a Termination Notice, it is still worth it to give your space a closer look and make sure you are in full compliance with the Open Restaurant Program requirements.  This is especially true if you’ve received a Notice to Cure in the past—even if you think you reached an agreement with the DOT over any issues.  Even where businesses have thought they reached an understanding with DOT previously, those earlier Notices to Cure are being used to justify immediate Termination Notices.

Key takeaways: Don’t sit on any notices you receive from DOT. Get your space in compliance and review your outdoor seating for any possible violations. We are standing by ready to assist in assessing for necessary remediations and talking to the DOT on your behalf.

If you have any questions, please email Eric Dawson at [email protected].

Joey Regs says….. by Joseph Levey, Founding Partner

Off-Premises Catering Licenses are Available!!!

Finally, the little guys, the start-ups, the hobbyists with dreams of more, will have the ability to apply for their own OFF-PREMISES CATERING LICENSES.  The NY State Liquor Authority has created an entirely new class of license – one specifically for caterers who do NOT have their own facility that can accommodate seated dinner service for 50 persons.  For the first time ever, New York State is allowing for a strictly off-premise catering license – one where your facility is very specifically not used for any on-site events.  So, if you are a caterer who has a commissary kitchen and office space, and the ability to prepare food for an off-site, 50+ person event, this license is for you.

We were anticipating this moment from the instant that our Governor made the announcement six months ago.  So we’re fully prepared, and our team is ready to help you apply.  This application has only been live for a few weeks, yet we’ve already onboarded a number of people.  Call us today if you have questions or if you think that this license is a good fit for you.

DOT Permanent Restaurant Program

We are all hearing about the future of outdoor restaurants, and there’s a lot of noise and confusion out there. So we broke it down for you so you can plan your future.

The Bill

The proposed bill to be voted on in June, Proposed Int. No. 31-B, will allow for dining set-ups on sidewalks all year, but dining structures on city streets will be prohibited between November 30 and March 31. How they will manage this process will be determined at a later date by the DOT. According to the bill, restaurants can operate outdoor dining from 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. Outdoor dining will now be available to restaurants in all neighborhoods across the five boroughs. The overseeing agency will be the Department of Transportation.

As a note, it is still not clear what the design guidelines will be for roadway dining structures; however, the NY Hospitality Alliance believes they will not allow fully enclosed structures while design guidelines for sidewalk cafes will likely mimic the pre-pandemic program.

The Costs

The fee for an outdoor dining license will be $1,050 for a four-year license. License renewals will be every four years for both roadway and sidewalk cafes, and the Sidewalk Café & Roadway Café Revocable Consent Fee Rates are as follows:

  • Sidewalk Café: There will be four sectors depending on your location in the city. Fees range from $6 per square foot for the lowest sector to $31 per square foot for the highest sector. Sectors 3 and 4 shall only include the area south of and including 125th Street in Manhattan. Approximately 80% of restaurants would be classified as being in the lowest sector.
    • Sector 1: $6
    • Sector 2: $10
    • Sector 3: $18
    • Sector 4: $31
  • Roadway Café: There will be four sectors depending on your location in the city. Fees range from $5 per square foot for the lowest sector to $25 per square foot for the highest sector. Sectors 3 and 4 shall only include the area south of and including 125th Street in Manhattan. Approximately 80% of restaurants would be classified as being in the lowest sector.
    • Sector 1: $5
    • Sector 2: $8
    • Sector 3: $14
    • Sector 4: $25  
Notable Points from Other Sections of the Bill
  • Applications will no longer require plans to be drawn up by a professional architect or engineer.
  • The required approval by the Landmarks Preservation Commission has been restricted by shortening the amount of time they must sign off on applications. The Commission shall decide on applications no later than 10 business days after receipt of a complete application, unless the Commission determines that such outdoor dining structures may influence the exterior architectural features of a landmark or building within a historic district and a public hearing is required.
  • If a license holder violates any of the regulations for the first time, the license holder will be given a period of 30 days after notice to correct the violation.
Temporary Outdoor Dining Permit
  • If the premises had a licensed outdoor café within the prior two years, new tenants will be able to obtain a temporary outdoor dining permit, provided that the plans for the café are the same as the one previously licensed.
  • The second temporary permit will be for new applicants who do not have to wait the full amount of time to receive revocable consent and can get temporary permission to operate while their application is pending.
The Transition Period
  • Every business that currently has a permit under the emergency Open Restaurants program will be allowed to continue operating until their application under the new law is acted upon by the city. Such date will be within a “reasonable amount of time,” but no less than 3 months after the effective date of such rules.
  • Any business that had operated outdoor dining pursuant to the emergency Open Restaurants program, whose structures are noncompliant with the rules of the department relating to design, shall remove such structures no later than 30 days after the determination of the department to approve or deny revocable consent. All such structures must be removed no later than November 1st, 2024.

We know this is a a lot of information, so please reach out to our Licensing team with any questions.  You can send your questions to Heather Kirk, Director of Licensing, at [email protected].

New York State Liquor Authority

Dealing with the New York State Liquor Authority continues to be challenging.  Please take note of the important points below as you plan ahead.

  • The SLA is still experiencing incredible delays with respect to processing times of just about every type of application.  The sooner you start the process the better.
  • On average, the SLA is taking about 7-8 months to process new On-Premises license applications – regardless of location or type. Add an extra 1-2 months if the community board opposes the application.
  • Look for “key money” deals; look for places with a clean license history; look for spaces that might otherwise qualify for temporary permits.
  • On average, we are seeing a current wait time of 10-12 months for new off-premises retail liquor/wine store applications.
  • All types of change applications (ownership, method of operation, etc.) are taking a minimum of three months.  If the change is more complex, it will take even longer.
All has been quiet on the cannabis front in NY recently.  The State has been feverishly working on their redraft of the proposed regulations, which I expect to come out later this week (possibly at the OCM meeting on Thursday).  Once these new regs are officially published, a new public comment period (45 days) will commence.  This puts us on track to have final regs this summer, with an application window opening around Labor Day.  Don’t get discouraged by how slowly things are moving.  This is just what happens in cannabis – everything takes longer than expected.  We’re almost there!

Joey Regs out….

CONTROL YOUR GC: Hospitality Construction Contracts by Jared Wiesel, Chris Miskolczi, and Raluca Tomniuc, Associate Attorneys, Real Estate Group

One of the biggest headaches our clients face when building out a new space is keeping their GC on time and on budget. Problems during the buildout can just eat up your budget and cause way too much stress. So, we have started getting involved in GC construction contracts.

Helbraun Levey’s Real Estate Group is pleased to announce that we are now offering our clients a specialized service of reviewing and negotiating construction agreements. Your contractor may be telling you that your construction agreement is non-negotiable – that is incorrect. There are key points that should always be reviewed in order to avoid unexpected expenses down the road and keep your build-out on track. A few issues that our clients most commonly run into trouble with (and that you should be keeping in mind) include the following:

  • Payment Schedule – The schedule of payments should be as specific as possible, including payment amounts and conditions to be met so that there is no confusion on the back end. We often recommend that the contractor be paid in thirds – 1/3 up front (so that the contractor can purchase materials and hire subcontractors), 1/3 at the “halfway point” (which designation should be agreed on by the parties), and the final 1/3 when the job has been substantially completed with only punch list items remaining.
  • Scope of Work – Make sure that your contractor has a clear understanding of all of the work to be done, the materials to be included, and exactly how you envision your space looking at completion of the build-out.
  • Project Schedule – The work schedule should be set out in detail, including the start and end date, working hours, and milestones to be met. Including strict penalties for failure by the contractor to meet deadlines is a good way to make sure your contractor works efficiently.
  • Change Order Protocol – Changes to your plans are bound to happen, so it is important to anticipate them with a plan in place. Before your contractor can initiate any changes, they should provide to you for your approval a written description of the cost of the new work and its impact on the schedule.
  • Lien Waivers – A lien waiver is an agreement not to place a lien on property. Your contractor should be required to provide lien waivers from subcontractors and materials suppliers stating that no liens will be placed on your property in the event that the contractor fails to pay amounts owed.

Our Real Estate team is here to help you save money on your build-out by getting out in front of these potential stumbling blocks. If you have any questions, email Jared Wiesel at [email protected].

Summer Catering Contracts by Andrew Fine, Partner & Chair, Corporate Group

Event season is in full swing and if you’re hosting or catering events, you should pay careful attention to your lucrative event contracts so you can squeeze as much out of them as possible.

We’ve seen our clients get burned by hosts who want to cancel events at the last minute, hosts who refuse to pay you for services, hosts who bring in too many caterers only to create logistical mayhem, hosts with creative interpretations of ‘Force Majeure’ clauses…you name it. Fortunately, most of these headaches can be avoided by establishing clear rules and parameters in your catering and event contracts.

Some tips for your catering contract as you gear up for events this Summer and Fall:

  • Attach sample menus, and require advance notice of any guest food allergy;
  • Include exclusivity provisions;
  • Require an anticipated guest count, and cap the guest count;
  • Disclose all fees clearly, and consider including contingent overtime fees;
  • Require an upfront and nonrefundable deposit to reserve the event date;
  • Impose cancellation fees which scale based on the timing of a cancellation relative to the event date. Note that for catering contracts, cancellation fees must approximate the amount of actual costs incurred in reliance of the given event;
  • Pay special attention to your “Force Majeure” clause – if an event cannot be held due to an event outside the parties’ control, explicitly require that the parties make good faith efforts to reschedule the event on the same or substantially same terms. Remember, a Force Majeure clause is not a ‘get out of the event for free’ clause;
  • Include provisions relating to service of liquor and related liability;
  •  Reserve the right to eject guests who misbehave;
  •  Include provisions disclaiming warranties and establishing caps on potential liability.

If you have any questions about your catering/event contracts, or if you’d like to have us polish them up for you, don’t hesitate to email Andrew Fine at

International Trademarks by Hamutal Lieberman, Partner & Chair, Trademark, Litigation & Employment Practices Groups

Many restaurateurs get inspired by their summer travels and want to explore options to expand both inside the U.S. and internationally. Our clients are opening shops in the Hamptons, Cape Cod, Paris and London, just to name a few!  If you are considering expanding or launching your brand domestically or internationally, it is crucial that you have your trademarks registered and protected.

Whether it’s a State, Federal or International trademark you are seeking, the steps are the same. We will first conduct a trademark clearance search to make sure that your trademark is not only available, but also has a high chance of successfully achieving registration.

Once the trademark search is complete, we will prepare the trademark application and file it with the appropriate State, Federal or International trademark office. Understanding that you will want to move quickly, we can get your application drafted and filed within one week from the trademark search results! After trademark applications are filed, we advise that you use the TM symbol to alert members of the public that you are asserting rights over the name and offer you additional protection against potential infringers.

Keep in mind that U.S. trademark applications are averaging one year from filing to registration, European trademarks are average four to five months from filing to registration and New York State trademarks are taking around three to four months (other State applications will vary). So, if you want to lock down that perfect name, do yourself a favor and dive right into the process so that you can have your trademark registered sooner rather than later!

If you have any questions about trademarks, email Hamutal Lieberman at


There’s a Rat in the Kitchen…

NYC plans to issue a new rule to keep rats away from garbage by requiring restaurants to put trash in containers instead of bags that sit at the curb for hours each night.  The rule would apply to a wide range of businesses that produce most of the city’s food waste. Restaurants will be required to put trash at the curb in “rigid receptacles with tight-fitting lids.”  The rule could take effect as early as July, 2023.

And here’s a little pitch from HL client Josh Blackman, who is in the real estate biz and happens to make these storage bins:

An attractive solution to trash storage is BrownstoneBin, a rat-proof and very durable all-aluminum trash container.  BrownstoneBin can handle an unlimited number of trash/recycling cans and looks much better than rows of garbage cans.  BrownstoneBin is available for purchase and on a rent-to-own basis.  Contact BrownstoneBin:

R.I.P. – The fabulous and incomparable Tina and one of my literary faves and fellow Brooklynite, Martin Amis.  Simply the best.

As Jerry and the Boys say: Enjoy yourself if just because, it’s later than you thought it was.

Take care and enjoy!